The ACT scheduled a free exam on Jan. 14 for 53 students whose answer sheets went missing after taking the test at Roslyn High School in October, but some parents and college-bound students said the retest is a hollow gesture that will be too late to influence the higher-education selection process.
Newsday reported Wednesday that the Iowa City testing service is trying to locate the missing answer sheets and investigating what happened after students sat for the Oct. 22 exam at Roslyn High. Scores typically are provided in two to eight weeks, according to ACT’s website.
Tarah DeSousa, a spokeswoman for the organization, said in an email Thursday to Newsday that the answer sheets in question were those of students who did not choose to complete the ACT’s optional, 40-minute writing section.
ACT emailed all of the affected students on Thursday, offering the retest at no charge and saying they will receive a refund of the fee for the October exam. That email also said students facing application deadlines could give a copy of the email to colleges “as verification that you were present and tested on Oct. 22, but through no fault of your own, your October scores are not available.”
Further, the email to students said they either can take the test on the retest date or switch their registration to a future ACT exam date within the next 12 months, without additional charge. The test fee is $42.50, or $58.50 if students complete the optional writing section.
The Roslyn school district has said that 258 students sat for the ACT at the high school on Oct. 22. Neither ACT, citing students’ confidentiality, nor the district would release the schools that the affected pupils attend.
“ACT has worked with the courier service to track possible missing materials, and an extensive search of the test center has been conducted, but the missing answer documents have not yet been found,” DeSousa’s statement to Newsday said. “We are taking every possible step to locate the answer sheets and are hopeful that they will be found soon.”
FedEx, the courier service for the exams, said late Thursday in a statement that it “understands how important these test results are to the students and their families. We are conducting a thorough search for this shipment and continue to work very closely with ACT on this matter.”
ACT’s retest offer infuriated some students and parents, who said they doubt colleges’ admissions officials will hold their decisions to await release of the later scores. They pondered the potential of lost scholarship opportunities and other effects of the unknown October test score.
“Doesn’t work for my son,” said RoseMarie Sherry of Glen Cove.
Cameron Sherry, a senior at Chaminade High School in Mineola, applied “Early Action” to some colleges — those applications usually are due in November — and is working to meet deadlines for regular decision applications in early January, she said.
The 17-year-old said he is unsure if he will take the Jan. 14 test. He said he would check with colleges to see if they would accept the late score.
“I studied countless hours for the exam. I had a tutor for it, and I had to juggle that with my regular academic work and athletic life,” he said. “I have to make a decision to try to cram in two weeks of studying, right before the test, which is not enough time.”
Some of the parents, concerned when their children did not get their scores, said they had been contacting ACT and the high school for several weeks. The affected students learned of the Jan. 14 retest offer by email from ACT Customer Care at 11 a.m. Thursday, according to emails obtained by Newsday.
“He goes to a very intense high school, which requires a lot of work on his part, and he’s an all-season runner and athlete,” RoseMarie Sherry said of her son. “He doesn’t have this free time to take extra tests and prep courses, and have it cast aside and not even matter.”
Students, who frequently take the ACT and SAT college-admissions exams in their junior year, saw the October test as a last chance to boost their scores ahead of college-admission deadlines. Some of the affected students already had taken the ACT, but thought they would do better after studying through the summer months, free of daily classroom assignments and extracurricular obligations.
“I thought I did much better than I did the first time,” Matthew Pemberton, 17 and a senior at Glen Cove High School, recalled thinking in October. His first ACT score was a 29, out of a maximum 36. Pemberton, who is seeking a scholarship to be on Division I rifle team, said he prepared more for the October test, aiming for a 30 to better his chances of more scholarship money.
“They have taken away thousands in scholarship opportunity for my son,” said his father, Brian Pemberton.
Other parents said the lost scores could have far-reaching consequences.
“It could impact what schools she gets into,” said James Fenton, whose daughter Emma, 17, a senior at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, is missing her score. “Future earnings, scholarship money . . . she’s put a lot of time into it. We spent money on tutoring. It’s not just an inconvenience.”
Fenton likened the students’ situation to training for the Olympics.
“You run a race, you get a great time, and you get a call saying, ‘We’ve lost your time, unfortunately, but we’ll give you two weeks to get ready for the next race’ — which is not realistic,” he said.
DeSousa initially told Newsday on Tuesday that the testing service was investigating an “issue with several students who tested at Roslyn High School not receiving scores.” On Wednesday, DeSousa acknowledged that 53 students’ answer sheets were missing.
The Roslyn school district, in a statement to Newsday on Tuesday, issued a statement saying it had been “informed by the ACT test coordinator that all proper protocols were followed on-site.”
The ACT, which is administered six times each year, has 215 multiple-choice questions in English, math, reading and science. The exam lasts about three hours, and the optional writing section takes another 40 minutes.
Nationwide, about 2.1 million high school graduates of the Class of 2016 sat for the exam — 64 percent of high school graduates, according to the organization.
Larry Cohen, whose 17-year-old daughter, a senior at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, was among the 53 students affected, said he has little confidence in the testing center.
“This is still an unresolved issue,” Cohen said Thursday. “Learning that the ACT does not have a process for tracking a student’s tests and score report is astonishing to say the least.”